F&M Votes works to register voters, educate about politics

BY SHIRA KIPNEES ’15
Staff Writer

F&M votes is a non-partisan coalition of F&M students, faculty, and professional staff, working to ensure every eligible F&M student can vote by helping students to register for the upcoming November election.

The coalition has been on campus since 2004 as a federally mandated service. However, Nicole Hoover ’09, co-chair of F&M Votes, believes the program at F&M achieves far more than what is required.

“F&M Votes goes above and beyond the federal mandate,” Hoover said. “While the goals of this group, which are registration, education, and motivation, have remained firm throughout the years, we have had to considerably adjust our tactics as the world of politics evolves in front of us. For example, this year we have spent a great deal of time-working on a social media front for attracting registrations and voting interest. We didn’t have that conversation in 2004.”

According to Hoover, there are at least 12 students active in F&M Votes.

“Presidential election years do tend to draw more interest,” Hoover said. “Most volunteers are with us for the long haul and have joined our efforts as early as possible.”

Wyatt Huppet ’14, an organizing intern for F&M Votes, echoes Hoover’s praise of the volunteers.

“We have an incredible base of passionate student volunteers, but also an equally incredible base of passionate faculty and staff that contribute hugely to F&M Votes each year,” Huppert said. “I would say that the student volunteer numbers started out very strong at the beginning of the semester and basically haven’t changed much as the election draws closer—we may have had a few more recruits but generally it seems most of those interested in volunteering to register students have been passionate since at least the beginning of the semester.”

The activities of F&M Votes are split into two phases. The first phase is before the Oct. 9 registration deadline. The second phase is after Oct. 9, where the focus shifts from registering voters to informing and motivating them.

Hoover believes F&M Votes has been effective with regard to both phases.

“We at F&M Votes have been incredibly successful,” Hoover said. “To date this semester, we have handed in well over 500 new voter registration forms to the Lancaster County Board of Elections. We have been able to successfully capitalize on the excitement surrounding presidential election.”

“We registered 110 students on freshman move-in day alone,” added Lindsay Blechman ’15, an organizing intern for F&M Votes.

Hoover noted the wide variety of campus locations and functions where F&M Votes have registered voters.

“We have been everywhere this semester: Move-In day, the Community Activities Fair, Common Hour, in-house registration, in-class registrations, and will spend next week, the last before the registration deadline, tabling in both the atrium of the College Center and D-Hall,” Hoover said. “For those we can’t reach via these methods, drop boxes are placed in Shad-Fack and the College Center for students to drop forms into at a time more convenient for them. We have expanded our efforts to every part of the College we can think of, and it is certainly paying off. We receive more and more voter registrations each day. We expect that to continue right up until the deadline on Oct. 9.”

F&M Votes also collaborates with other organizations on campus.

“We at F&M Votes welcome the opportunity to join other groups on campus in promoting similar goals,” Hoover said. “We are hoping to team with both the College Democrats and College Republicans in the coming weeks on a debate or political panel discussion. As long as we stay neutral, we are always open to joint ventures.”

F&M Votes will be a major presence at the polls on election day and will be helping out the students who are voting.

“We will be troubleshooting this whole process for students,” Hoover said. “On election day, we will we be around campus making sure students know where to vote, and what they need to bring with them to do so, namely, their student IDs. We will also be in their polling place, the ASFC, with all sorts of election day goodies to hand out to the voters.”

“We have an outstanding relationship with the Chief Clerk of the Board of Elections of Lancaster County, Randall O. Wenger, and our precinct’s judge of elections, Judy Smith,” Hoover added. “These relationships have assured us that we are prepared for an exciting and successful election day.”

Hoover believes their work does not end after the Nov. 6 election.

“To be perfectly honest, we are never done,” Hoover said. “While the largest pushes for registering students are in the weeks leading up to a presidential election, you can always register to vote. There are always local elections and primaries to be thinking of. We want to be a presence on campus at all times.”

Hoover also explained that F&M provides a great background for understanding the elections and getting involved in the elections.

“I have an interesting perspective to offer this organization, being both a recent alumna and now a staff member,” Hoover said. “Having been a student here, I left F&M with networking benefits, the instilled love for public policy and the grassroots imperative to vote.”

Hoover credits her liberal arts education for her passion for her job.

“You don’t leave F&M without a fiery passion for something,” Hoover said. “Being a student here equips you, above all else, with the tools, power, and confidence to go after your goals and do so in an effective and efficient manner. That is the crux of a liberal arts degree; knowing how to know. For me, that manifests itself in this voting initiative. I have a passion for it. F&M fanned the flames.”

According to Huppert, F&M Votes will be tabling outside D-Hall and the College Center for both lunch and dinner this coming week from Monday until Thursday to help students register to vote before the Oct. 9 deadline.

Questions? Email Shira at skipnees@fandm.edu.

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